Embedding sustainable development across Government, after the Secretary of State's announcement on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by the British Standards Institution (BSI)

As the UK's National Standards Body, BSI welcomes this opportunity to comment on this inquiry.


1.  BSI is the UK's National Standards Body (NSB) and was the world's first. It represents UK economic and social interests across all of the European and international standards organizations and through the development of business information solutions for British organizations of all sizes and sectors. BSI works with manufacturing and service industries, businesses, governments and consumers to facilitate the production of British, European and international standards.

2.  Much of the market knowledge and expertise BSI has resides in its committee structure. BSI has a large number of committees of experts representing a broad range of stakeholders, and this promotes the development of consensus views regarding standardisation where this is deemed important.

  1. BSI has a portfolio of standards that enable organisations to address their sustainability impacts; the portfolio includes the world's first national standard on managing sustainable development, BS 8900:2006.
  2. BSI published a guidance standard on Sustainable Procurement, BS 8903:2010, which can be used by any organization and has had major government involvement.
  3. In formulating a future architecture for sustainability and demonstrating it is the "greenest government ever", government should be actively involved in developing new standards in the area of sustainability. It should also use existing standards that can increase its sustainability performance.

3.  British Standards are developed by bringing together the key interested parties in a transparent process that has no commercial bias. Representatives from small businesses, government, NGOs, consumers, labour organisations, academic institutions and industry sectors sit on committees to develop consensus-based documents. The result is standards that are voluntary to use, while being supported by all stakeholders.

4.  In 2006, BSI published the first standard on sustainable development: BS 8900:2006 - Guidance for managing sustainable development. It is a principle-based approach for any organization (large multinational, SME, public or third sector) to embedding sustainability across its practices. It is the first standard to take an integrated approach to managing social, environmental and economic issues. The centrepiece of the standard is a sustainable development maturity matrix which helps to identify the amount of progress achieved to date and the future direction for sustainable development within an organization. This matrix would assist government in establishing how it is currently progressing towards sustainable development as well as potentially being adapted to assist in policy making.

5.  BS 8903:2010 - Principles and framework for procuring sustainably - Guide gives recommendations and guidance on how to adopt and embed sustainable procurement principles and practices across an organization (public, private or third sector) and its respective supply chains and provides practical information to support implementation. It includes guidance on measurement to help organizations assess the extent and effectiveness of their sustainable procurement activity. The standard has been produced to be compatible with the Flexible Framework, which was produced by the Government's Sustainable Procurement Task Force in 2006. It also has a separate Annex which deals specifically with issues around the EU Procurement Directive. There was committed involvement of government in the drafting of the standard and it is clearly a valuable tool for government to improve the sustainability of its procurement practices.

6.  There are numerous other standards in BSI's portfolio that address sustainability issues, key others include:

  1. BS EN ISO 14001: 2004 - Environmental management systems. Requirements with guidance for use (plus other standards in the 14000 series).
  2. OHSAS 18001: 2007 - Occupational health and safety management systems. Requirements.
  3. BS ISO 26000: 2010 - Guidance on social responsibility (to be published 1 November 2010).
  4. BS EN 16001: 2009 - Energy management systems. Requirements with guidance for use.

7.  By using the standards in BSI's sustainability portfolio the government can demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and make considerable improvements to its environmental, social and economic performance. As highlighted above, BSI brings together all interested parties and draws on existing developments, initiatives and contributions from all types of organization. Therefore, working with BSI will enable government to build an architecture for sustainable development without the assistance of the Sustainable Development Commission.


8.  BSI is the UK's National Standards Body, incorporated by Royal Charter and responsible independently for preparing British Standards and related publications. BSI has 107 years of experience in serving the interest of a wide range of stakeholders including government, business and society.

9.  BSI presents the UK view on standards in Europe (to CEN and CENELEC) and internationally (to ISO and IEC). BSI has a globally recognized reputation for independence, integrity and innovation ensuring standards are useful, relevant and authoritative.

10.  A BSI (as well as CEN/CENELEC, ISO/IEC) standard is a document defining best practice, established by consensus. Each standard is kept current through a process of maintenance and reviewed whereby it is updated, revised or withdrawn as necessary.

11.  Standards are designed to set out clear and unambiguous provisions and objectives. Although standards are voluntary and separate from legal and regulatory systems, they can be used to support or complement legislation.

12.  Standards are developed when there is a defined market need through consultation with stakeholders and a rigorous development process. National committee members represent their communities in order to develop standards and related documents by consensus. They include representatives from a range of bodies, including government, business, consumers, academic institutions, social interests, regulators and trade unions.

13 October 2010

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